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Posts Tagged ‘Mike Axisa’

Have the Yankees upset Jobu? If last night’s game is an indicator, than maybe they have.

The other day I posted about the Yankees all-or-nothing offense and pointed out who I think are the three main culprits behind the inconsistency: Derek Jeter, Brett Gardner and Jorge Posada. As I mentioned, I’m not so worried about Jeter and Gardner is fine in the 9th spot in the order. However, Posada is positively killing the team right now. Mike Axisa at RAB also has a piece on Posada’s horrible season thus far.

Since that article posted, I’ve received numerous comments through Facebook
and Twitter
about other Yankee sluggers who haven’t done the job lately. Their lack of production is, as far as I can tell, more due to messed up mechanics than anything else. Has Alex Rodriguez slumped terribly over the past ten games? Sure – and if you watch his at-bats, you notice his head flying open before the bat head on breaking balls. Nick Swisher? From the left-hand side, Nick is holding his bat lower and diving into the plate too much; he can’t get decent wood on anything on the inner half.

The point is, every major leaguer in history has had slumps. 98% of them make their peace with Jobu and resume hitting. The rest end up behind the counter at your local Wendy’s.

I strongly suspect that the Yankees principle culprit is plain old exhaustion. They’re in the middle of a stretch where they will play 32 games in 33 days. That kind of grind will take its toll on anyone. Which brings up a point not totally off kilter that I’ll expand on in a later post, the decline in offense generally (overall AL OPS is at .714, 20 points lower than last season and 62 points lower than in 2006). I personally think it has to do with two things: the number and quality of pitchers each team carries –and the number of quality reserves on each team’s bench. Stay tuned…

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With the recent acquisition of Rafael Soriano, the seemingly ageless question of whether Joba Chamberlain should be moved back into the starting rotation has resurfaced. It’s a question that has plagued the Yankees ever since Joba exploded on the scene as Mariano’s set-up man in the second half of the 2007 season.

Really, nobody thought the question would be a topic of discussion heading into this season. Joba was given a shot at the #5 spot last spring and lost to Phil Hughes. Going into this offseason, he seemed destined to be given a legitimate chance at earning the 8th inning role, despite his erratic pitching in 2010. After all, the Yankees were the consensus pick to land Cliff LeeAndy Pettitte wasn’t supposed to semi-retire. There wasn’t any room for Joba in the rotation and 8th inning duties looked to be a battle between him and David Robertson.

My, what a difference a few months and one type A free agent signing can bring. Now the 8th inning role is filled and the 7th inning features Joba, Robertson, Boone Logan and Pedro Feliciano, while the rotation features world-beaters Ivan Nova and Sergio Mitre. Given the way the pitching staff has suddenly been reshuffled, it’s no wonder the question of Joba’s proper role has resurfaced.

There are plenty of statistical reasons for making Joba a starter again. Mike Axisa of RAB has the usual arguments listed here. There’s also another reason moving Joba to the rotation makes sense: as currently constucted, the ‘pen doesn’t have a long man – the guy you bring in when the starter blows up in the 3rd or 4th inning. Last year, that role was filled by Mitre and Chad Gaudin. The rotation as currently set, with three guys who have a history of falling apart early in starts (not only Nova and Mitre, but the volatile and erratic AJ Burnett), that role looks to be more important than ever this year. After all, the back end of the pen is solid. The middle looks solid – but all six of the guys the team is counting on will wilt in the second half if they’re logging 1/2 of the teams innings.

The argument against Joba starting boils down to two problems: first, how healthy is his shoulder? Second, will he ever display the consistency to be effective over 7+ innings every five days – or is he more of an AJ-lite?

As to the question of health, we’ll never know unless Joba is returned to the rotation, it seems. Last year, his average fastball clocked in around 94-95mph, ending a three year decline in velocity. But, Joba also threw fewer pitches than in any full-season – 30% fewer. Was the increased velocity the result of a lighter workload not taxing that injured shoulder? If returned to the rotation, how will tripling his pitch count affect his velocity and control? (Statistics courtesy of Fangraphs)

The maturity question is another one that’s hard to gauge at this point. If it’s true that being bounced around from one role to another makes a pitcher great, then Joba should be ready to become the next Bob Gibson. But all the evidence thus far points to pitcher who has difficulty controlling his emotions, which is the principle reason he was relegated to the pen in the first place.

Of course, the Yankees could sign a back-of-the-rotation type over the next 4 weeks (Justin Duchsherer, perhaps?), relegating Mitre back to the pen or Nova back to the minors and rendering the whole question moot.

For now.

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